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Trial for 2nd man charged in death of Yankton, SD woman set for Sept. 3

(KTIV) – A September 3 trial date has been set for one of the men charged in the November 2018 death of a Yankton, South Dakota woman.

Ramon Simpson is charged with kidnapping resulting in death and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in connection to the death of 59-year-old Phyllis Hunhoff on the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation. His trial is set for 9 a.m. on September 3 in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

Another suspect in the case, Joseph James has pleaded not guilty to four counts, including kidnapping, and murder in Indian country.

Hunhoff’s body was found in the back seat of her car near the Bazile Bridge on Nov. 7, 2018.

The discovery came just three days after she was reported missing from her mother’s house in Utica, South Dakota.

According to the indictment, authorities say James and Simpson abducted Hunhoff in Utica on Nov. 4, 2018, and traveled with her in her vehicle from South Dakota to Nebraska.

The documents claim after traveling to Norfolk that day, Simpson took James’ cell phone, and a day later James killed Hunoff and set her vehicle on fire. The indictment claims James and Simpson modified James’ cell phone on November 5.

According to the indictment, authorities say Simpson made false statements to an FBI Special Agent on November 8, claiming he traveled from South Dakota to Norfolk on November 4 with James and a second person, who authorities say was not with them. In addition, Simpson told authorities they traveled back to Norfolk from South Dakota in his aunt’s car. Authorities say the vehicle used was Hunoff’s.

According to a criminal complaint, authorities found a quantity of blood on the seats and car’s body and the windows were obscured by soot.

The complaint says a fire had been set and burned the back of the front passenger seat. Some of the items removed from the vehicle smelled strongly of gasoline, including a soda bottle and some clothes.

According to the complaint, video provided to the Santee Sioux Nation Tribal Police from the Feather Hill gas station at the Ohiya Casino, shows James getting out of the driver seat of Hunhoff’s vehicle at 3:10 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2018.

Nearly three hours later at 5:51 a.m., video from Feather Hill shows James pumping gasoline into a one-liter soda bottle.

According to the complaint, James told the gas station attendant the blood on his t-shirt was from a deer he hit.  He asked if the attendant knew anyone that could help him get his truck out of a ditch, and said the vehicle he was driving belonged to a friend in Yankton.

According to the complaint, at 7:30 a.m. on Nov.  5, 2018, James came to the home of Marion Brandt and Syd Goodteacher on the Santee Indian Reservation.

Goodteacher gave James directions and a fresh t-shirt because James said people at another location had looked at him funny when he stopped there due to blood on his shirt.

According to the criminal complaint, a DNA profile on the shirt found the blood belonged to Hunhoff.

Blake Branch

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